Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Adapting Small-Group Spanish Literacy Instruction, Part 2

 By Carla Bauer-Gonzalez, Reading Recovery Teacher, Guest Blogger

In part two of this three-part blog series (catch up on part one here) on adapting Spanish Literacy instruction for students with a wide range of language proficiency, I will focus on developing an effective book orientation. I will share transcribed excerpts from actual Guided Reading Lessons and share detailed examples.

"The introduction to the new book is particularly important for the child who does not have good control of language (for whatever reason) " (Clay, 2016).

A strong book orientation before reading is best practice for any group of readers. It is critical for Spanish Second Language Learners who may not be familiar with key vocabulary and structures. Through the book orientation, we can assess the students' knowledge of these items as well as teaching and rehearsing if needed. As Clay states, "The book orientation prepares the reader for a successful experience during the first reading."

Once again, "Successful reading" is not exclusively about decoding elements like sound/symbol correspondences and syllable combining. Rather "successful reading" is about how each student integrates what they know about these things with what they also know about the text's vocabulary and language structures.

In successful reading, the decoded words conjure a mental image, for example gran-ja. El lugar dónde viven muchos animales. If granja doesn't exist in the child's oral language, they may decode it perfectly, but with no thought of red barns and mooing cows. It is critical that we identify the vocabulary and language structures the reader already knows and can use for successful reading. We can do this during the book orientation.

Following is a sampling of the nine teaching strategies I used during the book orientation for 
La Señora Lávalo Todo y la Gran Feria en la Granja. 

                                                                                              1. Maintaining a Conversational Tone: The book orientation should feel like a natural conversation (Clay, p. 115 ), with the children contributing as much as the teacher. To encourage this, start with an open-ended invitation to talk.  If it's your goal for the conversation to be in Spanish, casually echo any child's English contribution with the Spanish equivalent.  This validates his contribution, allows him to hear the Spanish, and promotes the feel of natural conversation.

Maestra (Teacher): ¿Quién cuenta lo que estará pasando aquí?
Aaron: She's talking.
Maestra (Teacher): Está hablando con…
Lilly: ...con los animales.


                                                                                                      2. Temporarily Replace Text Words:  I don't know if you could tell, but I changed a couple of the words on this page. The original text said, "'Estos animales son un desastre!' exclama la señora Lávalo Todo. 'Ay, que desgracia,' lamenta la señora Lávalo Todo." I used post-it tape to temporarily substitute familiar words more likely to be in the students' lexicon.  In the future, after having read the book a few more times, we will remove the post-it tape and learn about the author's use of these words.




3. Using CLOZE: The Merriam Webster definition of CLOZE is a test of reading comprehension that involves having the person being tested supply words which have been systematically deleted from a text.

While we aren't 'testing' students during the book orientation, using CLOZE helps us assess which concepts, vocabulary, and language structures the students bring to the reading. Use this same technique at the word level to find out if a specific word is in the students' existing lexicon. Say the first syllable to see if this elicits the desired word from the students. If it doesn't, you say the word and have them repeat it.


4. Utilize Cognates: The dictionary's definition of cognate is a word or morpheme, related by derivation, borrowing, or descent. For example, the English "eat" and German "essen" are cognates, as are "disaster" and "desastre" in English and Spanish. Pointing out such similarities between Spanish words and known English words helps children use what they already know in one language to solve unknown words. When reading, I anticipate that Aaron or Lilly will read "Estos animales son un disaster." That will be fine with me, for now. It makes sense, and we will reread this book many times in the future, with plenty of opportunities to address this substitution.


5. Embedded Word Work: Occasionally, ask students to locate specific words in the text. When appropriate, do a little embedded word work. At this level, children are working on using word parts flexibly across the whole word for efficient decoding, as well as an analogy - using known words to decode unknown words. Traditionally, children are taught to break Spanish words into syllables. While this may be useful in the beginning stages of learning to read, long-term it is cumbersome and inefficient. As soon as possible, we want children to see parts that are bigger than syllables. 




6. Frontloading Synonyms: Sometimes, we might be afraid of "giving away too much" during the book orientation. Try using synonyms to establish meaning without giving away the exact text words, so you can rehearse key vocabulary ('manguera' in this example) without giving away the whole structure. 





Maestra (Teacher):  Y ahora… 
Aaron: She gets stuff to wash them. 
Maestra (Teacher):  Sí.  Coge una...
Lilly: That’s a hose.
Maestra (Teacher):  Sí.  En español decimos m...
Leo: Manguera.
Maestra (Teacher): Todos digan ‘manguera’.
Niños (Children): Manguera


7. Access Meaning Through the Illustration: Teaching children to use meaning clues from the illustration is important. If you feel the illustration is not expressive enough, draw in extra features for readers to utilize as they attempt to decode meaning.  

8. Multimodal Engagement: I thought "Cepilla, cepilla y cepilla" was a strange structure that the students would be unlikely to anticipate. I decided to plant it directly and rehearse it with pantomime during the orientation. Adding the movement allows students to access this text through multiple modalities: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.



 9. Time Management:  A thoughtful and well-orchestrated book orientation is time well-spent. Even so, going through the whole book in this way, conversing, planting, locating, and rehearsing before actually reading takes time.   Remember that every page will not contain vocabulary and structures that require this kind of attention, and I have shared a menu of possibilities from which to choose.  Rarely would we need to do all of the things shared here during the same book orientation.  However, if time is an issue, consider teaching the book over two days: do the book orientation one day, and the actual reading the next.  Clay describes this adaptation to the customary one-day teaching of a new text saying, "This additional support may be necessary for a child who knows little about stories and storytelling, or who is an English language learner, or who for some other reason has limited experience with the language of books" (p. 116).

In the next part of this series, I will discuss how I approach the first reading of this book for Dual Language learners.   


Carla has been a teacher and staff developer in the field of bilingual education for 30 years.  She has taught Kindergarten, Grade 1, and 2 in Wisconsin through the Milwaukee Public Schools Spanish Immersion and Dual-language Immersion programs. During this time she also worked at a national consultant for The Wright Group/McGraw Hill, providing PD throughout the United States on balanced literacy in monolingual and bilingual programs.  It was here that she first met Mrs. Wishy Washy, The Meanies, Dan the Flying Man, The Hungry Giant, and the whole collection of Joy Cowley's fascinating characters!  Currently, Carla is the Reading Recovery - Descubriendo La Lectura Teacher Leader in Waukesha, Wisconsin. 




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